D is for Disorder
I always thought that parenting would get easier as my kids hit the elementary years, but though the physical strains, sleep deprivation and diaper changes are over, things are more complex these days. Now I have a bright, creative, witty nine-year-old who seems to be overwhelmed by life.
If your child has struggled with any type of disorder, you know how frustrating the process is. Life is consumed by educational evaluations, teacher conferences, visits to psychologists and psychiatrists. Medication, therapy, books, classes. Not to mention the time, money and pressure on family life. So you take all of the advice, diagnoses and suggestions. Then add those of your family. Your parents believe it’s psycho-babble and some well-meaning friends suggest it’s just a phase. Your husband might rather ignore it and hope it goes away on its own. It’s not going away. In fact, it’s getting worse.
As I watch my daughter scream at her shoes or hit her sister for simply brushing past her, I am starting to understand that she sees the world differently. Sensations overwhelm her. Our nervous system processes millions of sensations every day, every minute in fact. What most of us don’t even think about as background noise can be completely overwhelming to my daughter; the sensation of wind on her face, the tension of the seatbelt in the car, the volume of the television. So a time-out for hitting her sister hasn’t been the right response for us, but instead she needs a helping hand to navigate through our world of sensory overload.
We’ve been given many different possibilities: ADHD, anxiety, OCD, sensory processing disorder, bipolar disorder, mild Asperger’s Syndrome. My brother has Asperger’s Syndrome, so I see the similarities as well as some dramatic differences, but I also know how difficult it is on a family. As part of our human nature, we insist on naming the problem so we can begin to fix it. We look for causes – diet, plastics, viruses, maybe the chlorine in the pool? We read every new article about things that might be hurting our kids. And it seems there are toxins everywhere. We become angry, frustrated and confused by all of the information, and the lack of information.
So, it’s a disorder. Things are not ordered correctly. Not normal. I hate the word. I think we’re looking at a world where we all see things differently and if we don’t start talking about it with our kids and let them talk about it with each other, they won’t have the confidence to cope with life. I know that many kids these days struggle from the alphabet soup of disorders: OCD, ADHD, SPD, PDD. Why aren’t we talking about it more openly? Our family is tackling the issue on multiple fronts with therapy, medication and every possible activity that might help. But I want my daughter to understand that she’s not alone. It’s the term “disorder” that’s holding us back as parents. We don’t want our kids to be labeled, ostracized, different. Once kids realize that they’re not alone, we can start the conversation and maybe realize that we’ve all been different all along.
Author’s Note: I chose to remain anonymous since the internet is such a public forum and I feel that my family’s privacy is not entirely mine to give away. We have been open at school and in our personal life about our daughter’s sensory issues, hoping to start a conversation among parents and children. I have left it to my daughter to decide if she wanted to talk about it with her friends and was so proud when she did – and they decided that wearing a necklace that you can chew is cool! Her friend went out and bought one too.
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